I grew up hearing about how my birth father was abusive to my mother and to my older brother. My mother left him when I was only eight months old so I don’t remember the abuse personally. I never saw it, I never felt what was inflicted upon my family or me, but I lived in the aftermath.
It wasn’t something my mother had tons of stories about and it wasn’t something we talked about all the time but it wasn’t hidden either. We knew. And it was enough to make me deeply angry. The strange thing was that I didn’t really realize it until now but my anger wasn’t just directed at my father. Yes, I was angry that he could be such a monster. But since he wasn’t a part of my life he wasn’t real to me. He was just this invisible monster that didn’t really exist. Some unknown fairy tale that people told stories about. The father who didn’t love me. The one that regardless of what people said about him, I secretly longed to have hold me in his arms and prove to me that it was all a lie. Of course, that never materialized.
This deep anger that I had was at the injustice of it all. How could my mother just stand there and let him beat on her? How could she let him beat up my brother who was only four years old? How could she let him throw him on the floor and stomp on his chest? Why didn’t she stop him? Where were my grandparents when this was happening? What about my aunts and uncles? Didn’t anyone care? They all talked about how much they hated my father but no one seemed to love us enough to protect us either! They had to see the bruises on my mom and my brother! They lived only 3 doors down and they saw us every day. Why wasn’t anyone doing anything during all these years? Why wasn’t anyone stopping it?
My mind would hear these stories as a child and I didn’t realize it then, but in my subconscious I kept thinking, “This doesn’t make sense! You keep telling me these stories to prove how horrible my father is but you are just as horrible! YOU let it happen! All of you! You let it happen!”
As a small child, I made an internal vow that I would never allow a man to beat up on me. My husband would never, ever hit me. I would kill him before I let that happen!
And there it was. The internal vow that would rule my life, lurking in the subconscious until the Lord revealed it to me and set me free. This vow would haunt my husband for 24 years as he lived under the constant verbal reminder of, “You know, if you ever hit me I’ll kill you,” when there was never a reason to suspect that he would touch me.
You can hear the audio teaching on this topic where the Lord revealed this vow to me during a session and I broke the vow during a live class. The class contains other examples stories of internal vows that might be helpful. The link to the audio recording can be found on my website at: http://womenofhope.podcastpeople.com/posts/57000
What are internal vows?
Internal vows are damaging promises we make in order to comfort ourselves in times of pain, frustration, or difficulty and these promises are never healthy. We swear things to ourselves in attempt to create protection from pain in the future. But instead of freeing us from pain in the future, these vows actually tie us to our past in an unhealthy way.
There are three major problems with internal vows:
1 – They are unscriptural – “Do not swear an oath…all you need to say is yes or no; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5: 34, 37)
2 – They have an unforeseen effect – when we make an internal vow, we set the course for our lives. These vows often have a “sleeper” effect where they slip into our subconscious and we don’t realize that we are living by our vow yet they still rule our decisions. Internal vows can make people do things that are completely out of character trying to keep the vow. They can take over our better judgment and cause us to act unreasonably.
3 – They are the most powerful level of commitment – because they are rooted in such deep pain and turmoil, they can easily become the most powerful and guiding force in our lives. When it comes to what a person is going to do with his life it typically comes down to his priorities and values. Because internal vows become a part of our core belief system, most people value their own internal vows above their commitment to God and family. Internal vows are the highest level of commitment for most people even when they do not realize that the internal vow exists.
Our greatest commitment should be to the Lord, but when we’ve sworn to ourselves that we will do something or not do something, subconsciously that commitment overrides any commitment we have to God. These vows can easily become a crippling obsession. They can guide us in ways that make it nearly impossible to develop and maintain a truly healthy relationship.
How can we identify internal vows?
Internal vows are made when we experience pain in situations in the form of hurts, humiliations, anger, etc. and we make a strong judgment or come to a strong conclusion about people or situations that there is a lack of justice that we are experiencing.
In response we make a vow that might look something like:
• No one will ever hurt me again
• I’ll never be vulnerable to anyone again
• I’m never going to be poor like my parents
• I’m never going to allow myself to fall in love with anyone ever again
• I’m never going to trust anyone else in my life
• I’ll never let anyone else make a fool out of me again
• I’m never be strict with my children
• I’m going to give my children everything they want
• My spouse will never treat me like that
• We will always have food in my house when I grow up
These vows tend to be off balance.
They draw a strong conclusion about a specific incident and apply that conclusion like a blanket to an entire lifetime in a general manner.
They create a heart of stone and unforgiveness surrounding an event that carries over into similar events for the rest of our life as long as the vow is in place. But God is able to remove the hardness from our hearts because he said he would replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh. (Ezek 36:26)
How can we begin healing internal vows?
At the very core of an internal vow there is a lack of trust. These vows are a way of saying to God, “I don’t think you are going to protect me. You aren’t going to heal my pain.” We don’t trust God to be there when we need him most so we take control. Instead of trusting God with our hurts we find strength within ourselves and take matters into our own hands – because we have convinced ourselves that we can’t trust God to help us.
In order to heal, we must first identify when we have made an inner vow. Then we must surrender the vow to God and be willing to trust God to:
• heal the initial hurt that caused the vow
• help you forgive where forgiveness is needed
• surrender control of the inner vow to God and repent
• show you balance and new ways of handling this area of your life going forward
If you are interested in this topic, I have found a book that deals with it quite well. The book “When Life Hurts” by Jimmy Evans has a chapter devoted to Internal Vows but he also discusses internal vows throughout the entire book so it is worth the read. The book can be found at this link: http://www.amazon.com/When-Life-Hurts-Finding-Healing/dp/0801017114/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402149332&sr=8-1&keywords=when+life+hurts+jimmy+evans